A small town, found in the forested valleys of the northern mountains of Kyoto, Kibune is still a little bit off the beaten path for western visitors, and is a wonderful place to visit on your visit to Japan.
Kibune has started to attract a lot more visitors over the recent years, becoming known as the place where you can dine in the middle of the forest directly on top of a waterfall!
We headed out to Kibune for the opportunity to check out these restaurants that were seemingly built right onto of the flowing streams of the waterfall, but the whole area actually turned out to be so much more beautiful than we had imagined.
Kawadoko Dining in Kibune
From June to September each year the restaurants that sit along the river in Kibune build a platform across the flowing water, so their restaurant extends across the road and onto the river. Here you can enjoy a traditional Japanese meal in the cool forest atmosphere, while the waterfall runs underneath you.
Locally known as kawadoko, dining on platforms is a relaxing experience and a great way to explore some of the more traditional foods from Japan. The trees and shade combined with the breeze from the river makes Kibune a beautiful place to cool down from the humid summer heat.
The restaurants along the river serve kaiseki meals which is a traditional multi-course meal. Having a meal here can be very expensive, ranging in price from ¥3,000 to ¥20,000 per person.
Reservations are absolutely required, as the popular restaurants are quick to fill up. A couple of the restaurants might offer online reservations, but most of these places are old school, which means you will either need to give them a call to book your reservation or head there early and book a spot for later in the day.
What to do in Kibune
Although most people head to Kibune for the kawadoko dining, there is still a lot more to see of this beautiful little town. The whole village of Kibune was actually built around the Kifune Shrine, which is dedicated to the god of water and rain and is believed to be the protector of those at sea.
Definitely worth a visit while you’re in the area, at the Kifune Shrine you can get yourself a unique type of fortune that is written on a paper slip (also known as omikuji) and reveal their message when they are dipped into water. Admission to Kifune is free and the shrine is open from 6am until 8pm each day (closing at 6pm from December until April).
You can also follow the nearby hiking trail to Kurama-dera, a mountain temple in the neighbouring village of Kurama that begins in Kibune.
Kibune is still quite off the beaten path in Japan and is not yet a big tourist attraction for Western visitors. Because of this it’s is much more authentically Japanese, and is a wonderful experience if you’re looking for somewhere that’s not over-run with tourists.
Expect less English speaking people here, most people around the town are only fluent in Japanese.
Important tip: In summer it is extremely hot and humid in Kibune, so be prepared with some water and sun protection if you have to wait for your reservation or if you’re planning to walk around the shrine.
Getting to Kibune
Kibune is connected with central Kyoto by the unique Eizan Railway, which leaves from Demachi-Yanagi Station. Catching the Eizan Railway is almost an experience all on it’s own.
To get there from Kyoto Station you can take the JR Nara Line to Tofukuji Station, where you transfer to the Keihan Main Line to Demachi-Yanagi Station.
The journey from Demachi-Yanagi Station to Kibune-guchi Station then takes 30 minutes and costs ¥420, with trains departing every 15 to 20 minutes. After arriving at Kibune-guchi Station you can jump on a bus for a 5 minute ride to the town, or it’s about 20 to 30 minutes by walk.